Monday, 11 July 2011

Somalia drought to worsen, famine possible: US

Somalia drought to worsen, famine possible: US
(AFP) – 3 days ago

WASHINGTON — The US government has warned that a drought in the Horn of Africa is likely to worsen by the end of the year, putting parts of war-ravaged Somalia at risk of famine.

"Our experts... expect the perilous situation in the Horn of Africa to worsen through the end of the year," Nancy Lindborg, a senior official at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said Thursday.

"Given limited labor opportunities, the dwindling food stocks, and sky-high cereal prices, many households cannot put food on the table right now," she said at a House of Representatives commission hearing.

Lindborg said an initial assessment found that this year's harvest will be a "failure" in the southern Lower Shabelle region and "well below normal" in the neighboring region of Bay.

She said in a normal season the two regions account for 71 percent of the total cereal production of southern Somalia.

"As unfortunate as it may be, we do expect the situation in Somalia to continue to decline," Lindborg said.

"Famine conditions are possible in the worst affected areas depending on the evolution of food prices, conflict, and humanitarian response," she added.

She added that the United States would continue to work with the international community to explore ways of providing aid to Somalia and to people fleeing the country, which has been mired in war for two decades.

The United States said Wednesday it is ready to test the word of Somali Islamist insurgents, who control much of the country and have appealed for foreign aid in the face of the drought.

For two years the Shebab insurgents, affiliated with Al-Qaeda, have curbed foreign aid groups from working in the region.

The United Nations last week warned that 10 million people in the Horn of Africa -- which includes Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea -- faced the worst drought in 60 years.

A poor rainy season and rising food prices have also led to severe food shortages in Kenya and Uganda.

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